Sometimes spontaneity works out pretty well – Amitash Pradhan
He may be just a few films old, but Amitash Pradhan has already bagged a Hollywood film with a coveted filmmaker. The young actor who made his debut with the Tamil film Velaiilla Pattadhari, will soon be seen in Duane Adler’s cross cultural romantic dance film Heartbeats. We caught up with the actor while he was in Mumbai to know more about his journey into the world of cinema, his Hollywood break, preparation for being part of a dance film and more.
Let’s start with your foray into acting. How did your first break happen? Did you always aspire to become an actor?
My foray into acting began with a love for a cinema at a very early age. I am proud to say that I’ve seen the transition from VHS to Laser Discs to VCDs to Blu Rays. I come from a family of film lovers and have loved cinema more than anything else. To be honest, I haven’t even thought of another profession. When I was three, I told my mother that I wanted to do what Mr. Shahrukh Khan did while watching Baazigar. I then started to do theatre in Chennai and began falling more deeply in love with the craft. I then attended Actor Prepares; Anupam Kher’s School of Acting in Mumbai and then a few years later, Dhanush spotted me at a wedding and offered me my first film (Velaiilla Pattadhari) as the villain.
Starting with a negative character must have been a risky proposition. What made you say yes to this film and role?
I think audiences today are changing and stereotypes are being broken as people are being more and more exposed to world cinema and changing trends. I also felt that starting off as a villain would be quite a challenge as they are always strong characters and felt that it would be a lovely space to explore for myself. Also a chance to work with a gifted actor like Dhanush and have him mentor me really excited me and he did take care of me very well. When telling me about the role, Dhanush also reminded me that his father in law, the great Mr. Rajinikanth started off by playing a villain. What more motivation would I need?
You did a Telugu film as well. How was that experience?
Every experience in life is a learning one and I learnt a lot from it. Sometimes, certain experiences don’t work out too well, but it is a gamble, so I will try to take the best out of everything that I attempt.
Coming to Duane Adler’s Heartbeats. How did you bag a role in the Hollywood film?
One morning, I got a text from a casting agent in Mumbai asking if I could dance. I replied saying that I thought I could. I was then asked to record an acting and dance audition. I am not a professional dancer, so I trained with a local dance school, The Verb, in Chennai, for two days (night and day) and sent it to the casting agent along with an acting audition. Two weeks later, I received a call to come and meet with Mr. Duane Adler in Mumbai.
Was the casting process very extensive? Tell us about it.
It was extensive as they were very keen to cast the right person for the role. So, I had three to four call backs and meetings with Duane. I then had dance auditions with Shampa Gopikrishna and The Emmy Award winning, Tessandra Chavez. I then had chemistry tests with the heroine of the film, Krystal Ellsworth, which was wonderful as I was able to feed off her energy as well, which was fabulous. Lastly, I had a reading with Duane and then the next day, I was welcomed to the Heartbeats family.
Considering that dance forms a key part of the film, have you been trained in any dance form?
No, I have not been specifically trained so as to say, but I have loved dance all my life and being South Indian, dance and rhythm reverberates in our bodies generically. I have also loved the Step Up films. Sporadically, I have trained in a few forms, like Jazz, Rock & Roll and a little Bollywood.
What is the kind of preparation required from you for this role? How is the experience of working with noted choreographers and trainers?
I prepared extensively dance wise for this role. Being a non-professional dancer, I thought it might be very intimidating, but I had an amazing crew to help me prepare and the support of phenomenal choreographers. Shampa and Tessandra pushed me and motivated me every day with their energy, as did everyone else on this film. Acting wise, when I auditioned, I felt this role was very similar to who I was in real life, so I just went with my instincts and had Duane Adler to help me work it out as well. Sometimes that spontaneity works out pretty well; I hope it has.
According to you, what sets a Hollywood film apart from films made in our country? How is your ongoing experience of working on Heartbeats?
I haven’t done too many Indian films to have a strong opinion, but I guess one difference is that they work really quickly and there is hardly any delay. I have heard that The Dark Knight Rises was shot in 75 days, so they like to optimize as much time as is available. Heartbeats has been a life changing experience for me. It has taught me so much. Especially, to be in the moment and enjoy every bit of that moment. And that to reach the top of the mountain, it’s more about the mind in addition to the body. I’ve tried climbing it with the help of some amazing people like Krystal Ellsworth, Aneesha Joshi and Prabal Punjabi.
How is Duane Adler as a director and how did he mould you for this character?
Duane Adler is an extremely collected person. He enjoys the process of moulding an actor and has been extremely understanding and kind. He provides a conducive atmosphere on set that gives a lot of room for an actor to perform. I couldn’t be luckier or happier to have made my Hollywood debut with someone like Duane. And from time to time it hits me that I’ve worked with the man behind Step Up, someone who created a part of pop culture for today’s time.
What are your expectations from Heartbeats?
My friend Murali Vijay who is a cricketer and my best friend Siddanth Venkatesh said something that made the biggest difference to me. They said just enjoy the experience and live every moment. Expectations will hold you back. Don’t expect anything and just have a great time and go all out. And I did precisely that. I’m a positive person and very hopeful that the film does well because there has been immense hard work that’s been pumped into this project.
What kind of roles do you wish to do in the future? Is Bollywood also on your radar?
I am in talks with a lot of people and of course Bollywood is on my radar. I’ve been a Bollywood fan boy all my life. Hopefully I get a chance to be part of it.